Three-pointers used to come a lot more regularly for Boise State. They’ve been in the cabinet since the Oregon game. The drought struck for a third straight game Wednesday night, but somehow the Broncos came out the other side with a 72-68 overtime win over BYU in ExtraMile Arena. Boise State was just 3-for-19 from deep, but the third one was huge from Justinian Jessup with 2½ minutes left in the OT. Jessup made only two other buckets all night—however, one of those came on a steal and a dunk with 36 seconds remaining in the overtime. Then Jessup capped the evening with a pair of free throws with eight ticks on the clock. It was just the tonic for a guy who had played gritty defense against the Cougars, helping hold them to 38 percent shooting. Jessup contributed a career-high four steals.
Derrick Alston was as expected for Boise State, putting up a game-high 26 points, his fourth straight game of 20-plus to begin the season. No Bronco has ever done that before. Alston also pulled down 11 rebounds to record the first double-double of his career. Just as big a difference-maker was R.J. Williams, who created havoc under the hoop with his quickness. In just 18 minutes, Williams went 6-for-6 from the field and scored 18 points. After going 1-9 last season in games decided by three points or less or overtime, Boise State is a satisfying 1-0 this season.
NO REVENGE IN THE FIRST
The Boise State women were missing the injured Ellie Woerner inside, but I’m not sure how much of a difference that would have made against Washington State’s Borislava Hristova in the opener of Wednesday night’s doubleheader. Her 25 points and nine rebounds led the Cougars to an 80-68 win in a game that got away from the Broncos early. Boise State went 3-for-17 from the field in the damaging first quarter and fell behind 20-10. The game was fairly even the rest of the way. Braydey Hodgins scored 20 points for the Broncos, but Wazzu held Riley Lupfer to six points. Bottom line: Boise State shot 38 percent and Washington State 55 percent.
AMONG THE MYRIAD INJURY QUESTION MARKS
The unknowns have been accumulating for Boise State going into the Utah State game Saturday night. Once you get past the possibility of another Jaylon Henderson start at quarterback and a Curtis Weaver-less defensive front, there’s the offensive line. The uncertainty is at the guard position. John Molchon, one of the Broncos’ captains this year, didn’t play beyond the first quarter against New Mexico. And Eric Quevedo was helped off the field later in the game. If the guards are Jake Stetz and Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez against USU, “rising to the occasion” takes on a whole extra meaning. Stetz has had decent playing time this season, but Holomalia-Gonzalez has not seen much.
It doesn’t seem to be a serious transgression, but Boise State running back Robert Mahone turned himself in Wednesday afternoon for failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press tweeted that he was told “it was because a previous speeding ticket hadn’t been paid. It’s been taken care of, and he’s not expected to face discipline in Saturday’s game.” It’s an interesting time for the Boise State running game. Mahone appeared to be shaken up in the New Mexico game and had only three carries for 22 yards. The team’s leading rusher, George Holani, busted off a 50-yard run and netted 73 yards on seven attempts in the win over the Lobos. But Holani did not have a carry in the second half.
THE RECENT LOGAN ROLLERCOASTER
Boise State has experienced 180-degree opposite results in its last two trips to Utah State. In 2017, the Broncos kicked off a streak of four straight 40-point games with a 41-14 win in Logan. Brett Rypien threw three touchdown passes and Montell Cozart two, and the Boise State defense held Jordan Love to 168 passing yards. If you saw the 2015 game at then-Romney Stadium, you may want to avert your eyes here. That was Rypien’s true freshman year, when the Broncos trailed 45-14 at halftime and lost 52-26. They coughed up seven first-half turnovers, the most in a half by an FBS team in 10 years, and the eight total were the most by a Boise State team in 26 years. This season, the Broncos have trailed by 14 points or more in three of their road games. To their credit, they won two of those.
There are lots of underappreciated facts related to Boise State’s long-term success, starting with the fact that the Broncos are the winningest college football team of the 21st century. Here’s one that flew under the radar last Saturday night. With the victory over New Mexico, the four-year players in the Broncos’ senior class reached 40 career wins, or an average of 10 victories per season. This is the 17th class in the past 18 years to win 40 games. Nostalgia check: the first guys in the run were the 2002 seniors, led by Brock Forsey and Quintin Mikell.
END OF THE ROAD FOR VANDALS, BENGALS
Idaho has a chance to end the 2019 season on a high note, as it faces another 4-7 team, Northern Arizona. But the Vandals have to do it on the road—at elevation 6,880. One guy who’ll benefit from that is punter/kicker Cade Coffey, who had eight punts for 54.4 yards per boot last week against Sacramento State in the Kibbie Dome. What might he do at Flagstaff’s altitude? Coffey is averaging 43.4 yards per punt for the season. Idaho State also finishes its season Saturday with a game at old rival Weber State. It may not end well, as the Bengals have lost five straight games and the Wildcats are tied for first in the Big Sky. And there’s this: Weber leads the all-time series against ISU 43-14.
SOLAR BEARS ROAST THE STEELHEADS
The road-weary Idaho Steelheads could not find their offensive rhythm in their return home to CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night. Orlando handed the Steelheads a 3-0 shutout behind a 44-save night from goaltender Zach Fucale. The Solar Bears scored once in the first period and once at the beginning of the third, adding an empty-net goal with one second left in the game. The Steelies have lost five of their last six games (one them was in overtime and one in a shootout).
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!
November 21, 1969: The birthday of the most popular Seattle Mariner of all-time (at least next to Ichiro). Ken Griffey Jr. made his Mariners debut in 1989 as a 19-year-old phenom, and played 51 games alongside his dad, Ken Griffey Sr., the following two seasons. In the middle of his career, Junior spent nine seasons with Cincinnati and one with the Chicago White Sox before finishing in Seattle in 2010. All the while, Griffey was hitting 630 career home runs, the seventh-most in major league history. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. Ken Griffey Jr. is 50 years old today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)